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Brenda Cheryl Dickinson-Dash (1945–2024): 1969 Sir George Williams University student protest figure

January 15, 2024

A woman wearing glasses sits on a staircase in a leather blazer Brenda Cheryl Dickinson-Dash

Brenda Cheryl Dickinson-Dash, a significant figure in the 1969 student protest at Sir George Williams University, one of Concordia’s two founding institutions, passed away on November 29, 2023. She was 78.

Born in the Montreal neighbourhood of Little Burgundy, Brenda was instilled with a strong sense of social justice by her parents, Marcus Dash and Maisie Dickinson-Dash.

As a student, she played a central role in the historic demonstration against institutional racism faced primarily by Black students from the Caribbean. After negotiations failed, university administrators called the police, which resulted in the arrest of 97 students, Dickinson-Dash included.

In 2022, Concordia extended a public apology for how the institution mishandled the events — an apology Dickinson-Dash deemed too little, too late.

Beyond her activism, Dickinson-Dash co-founded Uhuru, a Montreal-based Black-community newspaper that circulated throughout Canada and the United States.

In the mid-1970s, she relocated to the United States, where a successful music-industry career led her to manage artists such as Digable Planets and Regina Belle.

Dickinson-Dash returned to Montreal in 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of Canada’s largest student protest against anti-Black racism. She participated in a two-week commemorative program arranged by a research collective comprised of Concordia faculty, staff, activists and members of the Black community.

As reported by The Globe and Mail at the time, she remarked: “All we initially aimed for was to secure fair grades for six students from a single professor. We never anticipated that it would evolve into such a monumental event that profoundly altered our lives forever.”

On February 6, 2023, Concordia unveiled a plaque at the 1969 protest site, the Henry F. Hall Building. Led by administrators and members of the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, the ceremony affirmed the historical impact of the protest and commended those demonstrators, like Dickinson-Dash, who bravely opposed bigotry and inequality.

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